Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Just got back from taking my family to see the Nashville Predators play some hockey. We won and it for sure helped me embrace the Christmas spirit. The next few days are going to be packed with busyness for most of us. Our team at Grace Community is getting ready for three packed out Christmas Eve services along with balancing all our family stuff. In the middle of everything going on the next few days I am praying all of us who serve in churches across the country will not miss what really matters at Christmas. Jesus. Simple as that, it is Jesus. Slow down, enjoy the time with your friends and family, and celebrate what God gave us on Christmas morning.

Speaking of slowing down. I'm going to shut it down for a few days here on the blog and take some time off from writing. I am taking the week after Christmas off to hang out with family and I need to turn my brain off for a few days. I wanted to say thanks to everyone who read this blog in 2011. I'm honored that anyone would read my ramblings. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See ya in 2012, can't wait to see all that God does!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Asking the right questions about 2011

I am blessed to work with some amazing leaders on our family ministry staff here at Grace Community Church. These guys and gals could be doing ministry anywhere and God chose to place them here on our team. This past week I had the chance to do "end of the year" meetings with 2 of our team. After both meetings I was reminded how blessed our church is to have these leaders here and I was thankful to be able to do ministry with such great friends. When it comes to end of the year reviews I think it's so important to ask the right questions. Asking the right questions helps to make sure we talk about the things in ministry that matter the most. Asking the right questions helps give staff a chance to dream and process out loud. Asking the right questions reveals that we actually value the people we are meeting with. Every year I try to change the process up but here are the questions I asked this year. Maybe asking yourself these questions will help you gain a better perspective of how 2011 went and how you want 2012 to begin. Here they are...
  • How is your relationship with Jesus right now?
  • How is your family life and what changes do you need to make to make it better?
  • What is the most important lesson you learned this past year?
  • Are you having fun doing your job here? If not what do you think needs to change in 2012?
  • If you could only accomplish one thing in 2012 in your ministry area what would it be?
  • How can I help you have a great 2012? (I guess this one was for my team only, ha!)
Now is the time to process and reflect on 2011. Now is also the time to dream about some goals for 2012. Make 2012 count by asking the right questions about 2011.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

helping teens take the step of baptism

Here at the end of 2011 we have had the chance to look back and reflect on all the teens teens who chose to take the step of baptism. Our team is kind of in party mode because we had more kids make this step of faith than ever before. God did something special this past year but I also know that we changed our approach with how we handled baptism in our ministry. When it comes to baptism you need a plan and you need prayer! You need a plan because you will never hit a target you are not aiming for. It's a matter of prayer because baptism is a result of a new life flowing from salvation...that's really God's work! Here are a few of the things we did intentionally to help teens process the idea of baptism...
  • We talked about baptism more. // when we talked about baptism more it gave us more chances to explain baptism. What is talked about becomes important in our ministry culture.
  • We linked our schedule with the church's schedule. // every time our church has a baptism service scheduled at one of our locations we had a reason to push baptism in our student ministry. Students would hear about it on Sundays and Wednesdays and parents would know about it also.
  • We encouraged small group leaders to talk about it and pray for it. // again this seems like a no-brainier but life is fast and small group leaders need to be reminded to find out who in their group they need to be praying for and asking about baptism.
  • We allowed small group leaders to baptize their students. // there is an energy happens when small groups get to celebrate baptism together.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Dodgeball 2011

Every year we do a Christmas event and for the past two years that event has involved dodgeball. Why dodgeball? I'm just allergic to traditional Christmas events. Really if I never go to another tacky sweater or white elephant gift party I will be just fine. Two years ago a leader named Matt Bucy came up with this event and it was an instant hit. It's now a Christmas tradition! We doubled attendance this year and doubled the energy of the night for sure. We added awards for best team costume and a baking completion. If your looking for a Christmas event that will create some buzz and help make some memories then try this out. Here are some pics from last night...

Friday, December 16, 2011

FREE STUFF / 2 Christmas games

It's Christmas and it is the season for giving so I thought I should give away a few games we have done the past 2 weeks at Relevant Student Ministry. Christmas games are hard because there are not many good ideas out there and not many good graphics. A good game has to have a graphic that works! Here are 2 we did, here are the graphics, hopefully here is the gift of time because now you do not have to make up a game for this week or next. Enjoy...

The first game is Fruitcake Mayhem. What is Christmas without fruitcake. You could do a million things with fruitcake but what we did was divide the room in 2 and then have 2 teams up front competing to eat a fruitcake. For every piece they ate they could choose someone in the crowd to make eat a piece. The team that finished first won. Simple, fun, easy. Just make sure they do not throw the fruitcake. That may have happened to us!

The other game is Living Christmas Tree. We have all seen the church productions where people climb into a tree to sing. We thought why not make a human being into a tree. We bought cheap decorations and had enough for 2 teams of 3 people to choose someone and decorate them as a tree. We let the crowd vote on the best tree. Yea, it was pretty great!

There ya go, 2 game ideas for Christmas. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

setting up others for success

This season Chelsea and I watched X Factor along with a few million other people. It has been interesting to watch because basically it is a new version of American Idol but with some changes. We have watched American Idol for years and there are many things that the team at X factor do to make their contestants stand out. Basically X factor has done a better job of helping their performers succeed by giving better tools and coaching. As I have watched over the past few months it got me asking myself if we are setting up our volunteers to succeed. Are we really doing what we can to help them serve with success each week. What they do matters more than any TV show ever will because they are shaping the spiritual lives of kids, teens, and college students. We are talking about eternal impact not wining a contest. Here is how we can set our volunteer teams up to succeed.
  • Provide the right tools. / To do any job you need the right tools. Our volunteers need the right curriculum, environment, supplies, and time in order to carry out their mission.
  • Give good feedback and encouragement. / In order to emotionally thrive volunteers have to have the right feedback. Ministry is difficult. Feedback and encouragement are gold for every volunteer.
  • Make the goal clear. / Volunteers have to always have clear wins to celebrate and we have to continually share them with clarity!
  • Provide significant opportunities. / Volunteers need to have ownership and opportunity. If a volunteer is giving time they want it to be spent on things that matter.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Illumiate Conference > coming to Nashville, Feb. 2012

What if there was a conference designed to encourage and equip volunteers? What would that look like? Now we know because that conference is called the illuminate conference and it's coming to Nashville on February 18. The entire experience is scheduled, priced, and crafted to allow volunteers and the leaders who lead these amazing volunteers to come together and process what effective kids ministry looks like. Several leaders that I call friends are going to be there this year and Grace Community Church will be there and we hope you will pray about being there. I really believe that this is a one day event you do not want your team to miss. This is a big week because you can register and get a sweet discount. If you read this blog and you live in driving distance of Nashville I hope you will tell your family ministry staff about the illumiate conference. Be there for the first illuminate conference in Tennessee!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do the Work / great book to help you accomplish more!

This year I have spent a ton of time reading about and rethinking how and why we work. Why do we do ministry the way we do ministry? One of the things I have discovered is that we can get better and working! I like work. I like progress. I like working with others to accomplish difficult things. Ministry is where I am called to focus my "work" so I want to get better at working and accomplishing significant things.  Steven Pressfield is one of my favorite authors so when I saw he had written a book called Do the Work I had to grab it for my Kindle. The entire book is set up to help people understand how to take a project and work systematically to make it happen. Every idea takes work to make it a reality and many ideas die because no one is willing to put the work into making it happen. Here are a few ideas about becoming more effective with the work you do. Check this book out then go read his book called Gates of Fire!
  • In other words, fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.
  • Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.
  • Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.
  • Start Before You’re Ready Don’t prepare. Begin.
  • Research can become Resistance. We want to work, not prepare to work.
  • Get your idea down on paper. You can always tweak it later.
  • Figure out where you want to go; then work backwards from there.
  • Suspending self-judgment doesn’t just mean blowing off the “You suck” voice in our heads. It also means liberating ourselves from conventional expectations—from what we think our work “ought” to be or “should” look like.
  • When we experience panic, it means that we’re about to cross a threshold. We’re poised on the doorstep of a higher plane.
  • In the belly of the beast, we remind ourselves of two axioms: The problem is not us. The problem is the problem. Work the problem.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

look ahead, work ahead

Everyone needs time in their year when they look ahead and also work ahead. For me that time of the year is December. For our team the month of December is good because we break for Christmas break with the student ministry and wait to launch again until after they go back to school in January. This time is gold because it allows us to get some strategic work done today that will free us in the future. Looking and working ahead now also makes sure we accomplish a few important goals. Here are a few...
  • Working ahead helps us make sure we secure the right facilities for our ministry events. / The right location can make or break any event. When you look ahead and plan you can get the facilities you need! We are a portable and mutli-site church so this is a big issue.
  • Working ahead makes sure we partner well with the rest of the church. / If we want to enhance and advance the mission of our church we have to plan to make our ministry work well with everything else going on. We are not the center of the universe!
  • Working ahead helps us communicate better with parents so they can make family plans and be involved in the ministry. / Parents need info, why not give it to them ASAP so they can make plans also. Last minute surprises are not helpful for families.
  • Working ahead helps you have a real budget. / There is no real way to budget without a plan. Plan first them budget to maximize the plan.
This year make sure you block out some strategic times to look and work ahead. I promise, dedicated work today will pay off with room to address the urgent tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2 words at Christmas that annoy us...BUDGET TIME

It's December which means it's budget time for many student and kids pastors. Time to crunch the numbers and figure out how much money you need for 2012 to pull off the ministry you lead. Budget time doesn't have to be a drag, it can be a time to look ahead and dream. Budgets help us think through and plan for the ministry we want to pull off tomorrow. They actually can give you a map to help guide you through the upcoming year even if you need more money than what you have been given. Budget time gives us a chance to cast vision and many times step out in faith as we talk to leaders in our church about where we believe the ministry needs to go. The next 2 weeks I am finishing up several budget areas in our church and here are a few questions I am asking...
  • What if I had no budget money? What would I do? // This is an annoying question but it's a good starting point every budget year. What if we had no money in the budget? What would be the most important things we would do? It also helps to foster a grateful heart when working with the resources we have.
  • What do I need to kill? // Every year there are things we really need to stop doing. When you stop doing things you create ministry dollars for other areas that need funding. Trust me, there are some "good" things in your ministry that need to stop so you can do something that is "great."
  • What do I need to improve? // If you see an area that is needed but lacking energy you might need to direct some of your budget to fix the issue. Budgets should be shaped to help your ministry get better not just stay the same.
  • What is going to be new? // Every year you need to be able to identify what is going to be new! New brings energy. New fosters change. New inspires. Your budget should help you clearly shape what will be new.
  • What can wait? // This is hard. There are always things you can put off for a year in order to improve and institute new ideas in your ministry. Sometimes waiting is the best call and the best way to set up for the next year. You will never be able to pull off every great idea every year.

What's the bottom line anyway?

Ever been listening to a speaker, felt like they had good content, and then walked away not being able to really say clearly what they were talking about? It happens every Sunday and Wednesday all over the country in churches and ministries all over the country. Good content, good intentions, tons of passion, with a lack of clarity. The best thing that ever happened to me as a communicator was reading the book Communicating for a Change and discovering the power of a well crafted bottom line. A bottom line is nothing more than the one statement you want people to walk away with after your talk. Sometimes it is a call to action. Sometimes it is a statement of truth. Bottom lines are that one statement that your build your entire talk around. Having a bottom line ready every time you speak means you will have a better shot of...
  • Limiting content: bottom lines help you weed out what you don't need to say. You only have so much time your audience it actually going to listen so you better say what is most important when you speak. Saying less for more impact means your audience has a better shot of walking away with your central idea. Having a bottom line just helps you choose what is most important.
  • Having an anchor for your creativity: bottom lines provide boundaries for creativity and fun. Great ideas are great unless they do not support your bottom line and end up distracting people from your message. Creativity needs boundaries in order to be most effective.
  • Setting up small groups to thrive: small groups in every environment of our church process our messages in small group. Bottom lines help set small group leaders to go further with the central idea...even go deeper! Clarity helps group leaders see clearly what is next!
Next time you speak, not matter what the setting, take time to craft a bottom line statement that you can build everything else around. I promise, it will make you a better communicator.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Read this before your next meeting!

Meetings are a necessary evil for all organizations. We all have to go to them and many of us have to lead them. People love to complain about meetings but I think we should institute a new rule when it comes to meeting complaints. If you are going to complain about meetings then you better be good at leading meetings. This year I read a great book that was all about making meetings work called Read This Before our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli. Yes I know you think reading a book about meetings would be worse than going to a meeting but this is a fascinating book you need to check out. This book lays out a plan to allow meetings to enhance your organization not hinder it. If we have to have meetings why not make them work? Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book and yes...our I am trying to make the meetings I lead better. Check these thoughts out...
  • Change is never met with open arms. Great decisions involve risk and risk scares people; it's natural for great ideas to get attacked or, worse, ignored.
  • Real work is what moves us forward. Work that involves action, struggle, and effort. It's that output that puts us closer to winning. If the mission could speak, it would constantly tell us, "get back to work."
  • Maybe even more unsettling than the false-urgency problem is that meetings have become a tool to delay decisions. They have become our default stalling tactic. I fear we have become politicians.
  • We have to remember that we can never guarantee a good outcome, no matter how much planning we do. Thoughtfulness is important, but so is speed. A system that allows the use of meetings as a stalling tactic leads to a culture of indecisiveness that is no longer acceptable.
  • Brave decisions lead to a brave organization; fearful decisions lead to a fearful one.
  • Sure, some decisions will fail. But movement even occasionally in the wrong direction is far better than standing still.
  • If you have no strong opinion, have no interest in the outcome, and are not instrumental for any coordination that needs to take place, we don't need you. From now on, if you're invited to a meeting where you don't belong, please don't attend.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

volunteers need something worth fighting for

The best way to drive volunteers to quit your ministry is to not give them a real mission and real responsibility. Leaders in kids ministry get this because in order to function with kids they need multiple leaders with real responsibility. For some reason I see many student pastors who think their job is to be the ring leader of the youth ministry circus every week and the volunteers are there for crowd control. If this is your model you may have some leaders who like you, the energy of youth ministry, seeing kids have fun, hearing your talks, the band, and maybe even like being with teens, but those type of volunteers are helpers not leaders. They are helpers because they just want to be there and are willing to stand around until someone asks them to do something. Leaders are different because they not only want to do something, they want to do something significant. Leaders want real responsibility. The volunteers you need in your ministry are the kind that feel like their time is valuable, that want to make a difference, and need a challenge. When volunteers walk into your environment they need to know they area part of something worth fighting for...
  • A clear mission // high impact volunteers have to know why they do what they do
  • A clear win // volunteers who are leaders have to have a clear goal to celebrate, they have to know what a win is for their effort
  • Real responsibility // volunteers who are leaders have to have a significant role in the organization, they want to do things that make a difference and be challenged
  • Another leader who is for them // volunteers that are leaders need another leader cheering them on, listening to them, giving them feedback
Are you giving your volunteers these three objectives? Are you recruiting the type of volunteers who are leaders and not just helpers? Your volunteers need a mission...give it to them!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The end of NO SHAVE November

It's November 30 and for the first time in 5 years of No Shave November I made it to the end without shaving the beard. Victory is mine. Fear the beard. And yes the beard better fear me in the morning because it is time for a trim. First time I grew a beard was after I read the book Wild at Heart (a must read if you are a dude and you have not read it). I remember all the prim and proper church people giving me grief. There was nothing better than ignoring them and growing the beard. Since my first beard over 7 years ago I have to admit I love the beard and more importantly my wife loves the beard. Today I will celebrate this month long victory. To all the teens and college students at Relevant and Aqua who made it, I salute you. If you quit in the middle of the month then man up and make it next year. If you are a girl and you grew a beard you probably need to see a doctor! Long live the beard!

Monday, November 28, 2011

After you make a mistake...

Everyone makes mistakes but not everyone knows how to deal with them. We all try our best to avoid blunders but they seem to find their way to us every once in a while. Sometimes we make the mistake and other times people on our team mess up. How we handle the mistake is so much more important than the mistake itself. Every mistake gives us the change to be people of integrity. Integrity is not being perfect, it's about owning responsibility when it works and when it doesn't. A few weeks ago we ran a video during a retreat that we had edited to make it work in the setting. There was just one spot in the video that was not "bad" it was just pushed the edge a little and we wanted it out of the video. The mistake we made was loading and showing the unedited copy on accident. Oops, we were bummed and frustrated. This is how we handled the mistake and how we try to handle all our mistakes...
  • Take responsibility. / if you are the leader then forget blaming and own the mistake...even if someone on your team made it. Being the leader means we get the credit for the wins and the losses.
  • Proactively apologize. / I'm sorry...those 2 words have so much power. There is no one way to apologize but make sure you connect with the people you need to after the mistake. They need to hear from you. Many times when people are mad about a mistake simply apologizing can diffuse the negative energy.
  • Learn from it. / Every experience is a learning experience, even in the middle of a mistake. Work hard to make sure the same mistake does not happen again. Also make sure your team learns from the mistake. Mistakes lead to learning and teaching opportunities.
The normal approach when dealing with mistakes is to blame others, make excuses, and hide. Do you see integrity in that approach? Next time you make a mistake own it, apologize, learn from it, and move forward.

Can parents trust your ministry?

What does it look like for student and children's ministry leaders to partner with mom and dad? We are always trying to find ways to make this happen but the best starting place for this discussion is asking what parents need from us? Until our ministries meet our parents where they are at then they will never take steps toward a weekly partnership. Every parent your ministry encounters is unique. With every parent you have to build trust before there is a partnership. In order to build that trust here are a few basic things your parents need...
  • Return calls and emails >> seriously, just email them back and call them back when you miss their call. Make sure parents know they are important by being responsive.
  • Get organized or find people for your team who can make you look organized >> I am not very organized but I have had to surround myself with people who are! Being organized communicates professionalism.
  • Create sticky environments for kids and teens >> When teens and kids want to go back and ask to go back to your environment parents smile.
  • Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more >> use facebook, emails, flyers, or old fashioned smoke signals to communicate. Information is a big deal to parents.
  • Keep an open door with your environments >> when parents want to check out your environment make it possible.
  • Protect kids and teens >> think like a parent. Use background checks, stop pranks and hazing, have safe transportation. Parents want their children to be protected and you can help with that goal and still have an amazing ministry!
  • Deliver on your promises >> be home when you say you will be home from a retreat or event. That is just one issue but you get what I am saying!
  • Listen >> when parents give you feedback listen and say thanks. You may not agree with their feedback but listening is huge factor when building trust.
I think if we start with the basics we can build trust. Trust leads to partnership! What changes do you need to make in order to start building that bridge?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy enjoy some FREE rad Christmas music!

Happy Thanksgiving! This week I want to help you kick off the Christmas season with some free Christmas music. Just click here to check out a project led by my friend Nate Edmondson and the guys who live on his dorm floor at Moody Bible College. Nate decided he wanted to do an electronic Christmas album and he pulled it off with some help from people who believed in the project and happened to live on the 10th floor with him. Enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend, get those Christmas decorations up, and load this project in your iPod to enjoy!

Have an amazing Thanksgiving weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Thanksgiving week is a natural break for my family. All fall we have been going 100 miles an hour and for one week in November we get to slow down and celebrate a time where we stop and give thanks. 2011 has been a defining year for our family. Both our girls are in elementary school now. Chelsea came on staff at Grace Community and she is wrapping up her graduate degree in school counseling. God led me to stay focused on student ministry and stay anchored in our church and our community. Our family is thankful. We have watched God constantly guide us and give us strength for the next challenge. In a few hours we will hop in the car and head out of town to spend some time with family. Before we hit the road I wanted to just process what I am thankful for this year and some people I'm thankful goes...
  • My I am blessed with three amazing women who live at my house! Chelsea and our daughters Kelyn and Kozbi are such a blessing. I am so grateful God allows me to be husband and dad to these women.
  • God's's amazing that God keeps coming after me and shaping my life. I'm thankful to serve a God who does not give up on me or the people around me.
  • Our team at Grace Community...every week I get to work with some of my best friends. I get to hang out with some of the most amazing volunteers in the universe. I get to lead in a church where God is changing lives. 
  • Our teens at Relevant...I'm blown away by the teenagers relevant student ministry gets to invest in each week. I'm so thankful that we get to be an influence in their life pointing them to Christ.
  • Our Relevant alumni living life all across America...yea it's so cool to get to watch formers students make a difference for Christ on their college campus.
  • Leaders who read this blog...I really do enjoy writing and I am blown away that student, kid, and family ministry leaders across the country would even give this time of day. Thanks for reading and thanks for serving the next generation.
  • Leaders who have invested in me...I have been able to meet some many amazing next generation leaders in 2011 and build some great friendships. So blessed to have people out there who are helping me be a better follower of Christ and leader.
  • My Tennessee Vols and Tennessee Titans are still fighting to get better...yea it has been a long football season for me but my teams are still trying to make a bowl and the playoffs. You know I had to talk about football somewhere in this post!
Praying you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving and that you have time to process what you are thankful for this year. Slow down and embrace some time to just be grateful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

That parent you can't make happy...

We all know them...the parents you just can't keep happy. You have met them if you serve in a church or school. They are the parents that always have a complaint, are never satisfied, and never say thanks. Many times we allow this small minority to cloud our perceptions of the majority of amazing parents we partner with because they are just so loud. Just last week at an amazing event we had one parent who was frustrated because there were just"too many kids there"...the event was "unsafe"...her middle school kids would not be "safe". Even after one of our amazing volunteers explained why we had the biggest crowd of our history and how we worked to helps kids have a safe experience the parent took her teens and left. What do you do with that? Here is what we have learned over the years...
  • Some parents will never understand what we do and why we do it. // many parents will never understand the passion we have for our calling as a minister or an educator. Go ahead and come to terms with the fact that some people will never get it!
  • Listen and process even when it's that chronic complaining parent. // just listen and learn what you can. Many times complaints some from areas in your ministry that need some tweaking.
  • Always remember we partner with parents and never compete with parents. // yes no matter what you think about a parent remember you are there to support them. You will be a teen's small group leader or student pastor for a few years. They are parents for life.
  • Return calls and emails quickly. // when a parents has a complaint or issue just return the email or make the call as soon as you can. Most parents (even the chronic complainer) just needs their questions answered.
  • Make sure you know why you do what you do and continually cast that vision. // you always need to be able to explain why you do what you do to anyone who asks, especially a parent. If you can't do that why would any parent trust you or believe in you?
  • Give grace and be patient. // being a parent is hard, parenting a teen is sometimes impossible. Slow down, give grace, be patient. You will be amazed what a gentle response in a tense moment will do.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Are your teens missed at church?

Are your teens missed at church when you go away for a retreat or camp? The answer to that question reveals how integrated the teens are in your church culture. The honest truth is that for most churches the rest of the church doesn't notices when the teens are gone...some people may even be glad that group of kids that sit together on Sunday is not there because we know many times teens intimidate adults. A few weeks ago we took our small group leaders and teens to a retreat and we missed a Sunday morning. Those teens were missed. Why? Because most of those teens serve somewhere in our church culture. Because those teens actually go to the worship service and worship with their families and friends on Sunday. Because they bring energy to our church week in and week out. We missed them because they are a part of our church family...they belong in the church...they make an impact in the church. For all of us who lead student ministries we need to be honest and ask ourselves how we are helping the teens we lead connect to the church, serve in the church, find a place to belong at church. I know this is a difficult idea but maybe the reasons teens do not see the need for an inter-generational church is that as a teen they never connect with that church. How do we do are just a few ideas that may help bridge the gap.
  • Let teens see you connect with the church. // you need to be worshiping with your church on Sundays (if you are not leading a Sunday morning environment). We can set the tone by supporting the church not just our ministry.
  • Empower teens to serve on Sundays. // when teens find a place to serve at church many times they find a place to belong. If you do Sunday morning environments for teens then challenge them to attend and then serve.
  • Communicate what your student ministry is doing with your church. // keep adults in the loop of what God is doing in the student ministry you lead. Build a culture of sharing the good things God is doing. People love to hear an celebrate good news.
  • Connect efforts of the church and student ministry together. // find ways to connect baptisms, mission projects, church wide strategy together with your student ministry.
  • Welcome your senior pastor and other staff into your student environment. // let your senior pastor speak one week or just hang out for the night, ask staff to visit and help you evaluate your environment, keep staff in the loop of your vision. Connect the world of the church and your ministry!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Free Stuff / a video, a buffalo, a great idea

I am always on the lookout for a great video idea to use as we promote events. I have a great video and a great idea for you to use to promote an upcoming event. We stumbled on a video called Guy on a Buffalo...I inserted it here in the post. It's random but very funny and there are four episodes. We loaded the video into iMovie and did a little editing to make it work to promote our fall retreats. I have included our week one promo version also. Every week this promo was was also random but it worked for our student ministry. There ya free stuff for the week! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Looking for small group help?

Small group ministry is not easy but it works. Small groups with teens and kids work because it places mentors in their lives. Everyone needs to be around people who will help push them toward Christ, toward wisdom, and toward life change. I believe in small groups and our journey over the past 5 years here at Relevant to figure then out has been a challenge. I know many leaders out there are looking for help when it comes to small group ministry. Jason Carr is a leader who might just be what you need. Jason spent years serving with Campus Crusade and at North Point Community Church in Georgia thinking about and leading small groups. Now Jason is consulting, communicating, and training other leaders about small groups. We had Jason in last week to speak at our fall retreat and he set up our small groups every sessions to help leaders invest in teens. If you have questions about small group ministry and want to connect with a leader who gets it then check out Jason Carr.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

say less so you can say more

I know it sounds odd...say less when you speak so you actually say more but it's true. When we make our talks shorter and clearer people are able to take away more. Every communicator wants to say more. We all believe that if we just had 10 more minutes we could help a listener take that one extra thing home and it could change their life. That extra 10 minutes might just be what keeps the listener from taking your bottom line home! In our student ministry we embarked on a say less so we could say more experiment. We limited our middle school messages to 20 minutes and our high school messages to 25 minutes. During the first semester we have watched how God has used our shorter talks in big ways. We really believe we are making a bigger impact every week and here is why...
  • Limited time forces us to say what is most important // with a time limit we use the best illustrations, best stories, best props, most important verses in Scripture because time is limited.
  • Bottom Lines are stronger and more focused // we make sure now and work harder to say our bottom line in different ways and at different times in our talks because we want them going to small group remembering that one big idea
  • We get to Scripture faster // with limited time we move to the Bible faster than we used to. The Scripture is the most important part of every talk anyway!
  • Attention and retention is much better // teens know we are not going to talk forever so they are more willing to focus. Teens are also getting to group with a better grasp of the topic.
Our students really don't need us to speak longer, they need what we say to be clear and to the point. Yes, you can stretch your students spiritually with shorter talks because they will actually be paying attention. I hope you will give it a try...say less so you make a bigger impact every week!

Monday, November 14, 2011

changing the space & getting their attention

This past weekend we had our yearly fall retreat we call CRAVE. Every year we go off site to a hotel in Gatlinburg and we have to change the space in our large group area so it will help our mission for the weekend. When teens walk into the room we want to grab their attention. That is what a good environment grabs attention. Content, worship planning, and production share our message. The right environment helps keep the attention of our audience so our message is loud and clear. Here are pictures from beginning to end of our large group space for you to check out. Yes, you can thank my iPhone for these shots. When you plan your next retreat or camp please do not forget to plan your environment for maximum impact.

Also, are you thinking about remodeling some of your ministry space? Check out my friends at Worlds of Wow for some ideas...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

designing a retreat for Small Groups!

Every youth ministry in the universe has some kind of retreat during the year. One or two weekends a year geared to get teens away from the normal grind and help them focus on Christ. What if you intentionally designed your retreats to enhance your small groups? Our ministry is a small group based student ministry so our retreats need to do everything possible to enhance the small group experience. You will be amazed when you make group a priority for most of your events. We even believe that if a retreat does not help our small groups we probably don't need to keep it going. Our fall retreat is called CRAVE and here are some ways we try design the weekend so groups have the chance to grow spiritually and relationally.
  • We take as many small group leaders as possible. // yes I know this is costly but we want the teens to be with their small groups leaders for the weekend, not with college students we bring in for the weekend. Our college leaders help fill holes not replace our weekly leaders at retreat! Yes we pay for our leaders cost of going. We just think it is a great investment when you consider the time leaders give all year.
  • We block off time for small group to happen after every large group session. // We give our groups more time to focus than we do during our weekly gatherings. The extra time gives group leaders time to push harder and listen more.
  • We create time for groups to hang out and make memories. // Small groups eat meals together, go ice skating together, do ridiculous games together, and have time to slow down together. Making memories together leads a kind of small group glue that helps small groups stay connected through the rest of the year.
  • We craft our worship and teaching times to set up small group. // When we program we think group. When our speaker prepares he thinks group. The goal is to set up small group to thrive.
A great retreat for our team is a retreat where small groups thrive. When this is the win for the weekend then our retreat is shaped and designed for small group. Will you be willing to allow your next retreat to set up your small groups to thrive?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FAMILY communion

We celebrate communion at our church several times a year as a church family, and we also make communion available every week for people who want a weekly experience. Our family ministry team wanted to find a way for kids who were Christ followers to be able to share in communion on those Sundays that were church wide and that idea is what led to our family communion area in Cross Street. This Sunday we created an area for parents and kids to share communion together. We left instructions for the parents and empowered mom and dad to have a moment of remembering with their kids. We also had one of our family ministry staff team stand by the area to answer any questions. Not every parent made the effort or felt the need to participate but many did. It was so incredible watching families remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us together. It was powerful to watch kids and parents pray together. As family ministry leaders we have to continue to find ways to help parents and kids share signigicant spiritual experiences together. For our team, family communion is just another experience that connects faith and home.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Becoming a catalyst for change

If you leading anything (a company, your home, a church, or just your 5 year old's soccer team) then you know that leading people to make change is a difficult process. We know our organizations need change. Many times we know what needs to change. We want to see things change. The problem comes when we make a move to begin the change process and really have no understanding of how to make change make it make it stick. This summer I read Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I have never read a book that better explained the change process. This is one of those books that every ministry leaders needs to read and then maybe memorize half of it. As ministry leaders we are called to be change agents not institution builders. Here are some of my favorite thoughts from Chip and Dan Heath. Go get the book and get to reading!
  • And that’s the first surprise about change: What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.
  • For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently.
  • Decision paralysis can be deadly for change—because the most familiar path is always the status quo.
  • Big-picture, hands-off leadership isn’t likely to work in a change situation, because the hardest part of change—the paralyzing part—is precisely in the details.
  • Until you can ladder your way down from a change idea to a specific behavior, you’re not ready to lead a switch. To create movement, you’ve got to be specific and be concrete.
  • Kotter and Cohen observed that, in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE.
  • But to create and sustain change, you’ve got to act more like a coach and less like a scorekeeper. You’ve got to embrace a growth mindset and instill it in your team.
  • Failing is often the best way to learn, and because of that, early failure is a kind of necessary investment.
  • Change isn’t an event; it’s a process.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Free Stuff // game idea, CHUG SOME SKITTLES

I know student and kid's pastors are always looking for games so here is one we did last week in our middle school service. It was the week before Halloween so I was looking for a game that would involve candy...of course. Who does not love candy? We called the game Chug Some Skittles. We had three teams (one per grade). On go they had to sort the skittles by color and then eat them. First team done was the winner. Simple, easy, fun. Here is the graphic we used. Enjoy some FREE STUFF!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What can God do in 45 minutes?

What can God do with 45 minutes in a middle school service? More than you can imagine. This year I have learned so much about effective middle school programing since our team got serious about making sure middle school students were engaging every minute of our weekly gathering. If you want to keep the attention of middle school students then you better embrace the idea that less is more. This year we forced our service time to 45 minutes and the time constraint has been an amazing catalyst. With limited time we have had to evaluate every phase of the service and make sure it works. Why...because we have 45 minutes. We have to choose the right songs. We have to promo events with limited time. We have to plan for the right game. We have to make sure the talk sets up our small groups and happens in 20 minutes. I can imagine many youth leaders right now asking for more time. I promise your middle school students do not need more they need better. If you want to engage middle school students begin with evaluating how you use the time you have in your program.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Is your ministry "social"

At our church we have been on the Facebook journey for several years trying to find ways to connect with people. Several years ago our team just realized that's where people were spending their time online so we went there. We have had a group, a page, been allowed to have a normal account people can add as a friend, and now just launched our new organization page where people can "like us" and you can check that new format out here. Of course our family ministry has also been using social medis for years. You can see our student ministry page here. We are pumped because we are about to reformat our FB presence. We love social media because it allows us to do several things...
  • connect with people looking for a church or family ministry for their kids
  • connect with people who have bought into what we are doing
  • communicate vision and mission
  • communicate with our volunteers
  • provide info about events
  • stay on people's mind (out of sight out of mind!)
Sure, we love our websites but they are not as interactive as Facebook and Twitter. If you want to connect with people get our there and get going. If you have not been using social media well and you want to get going check out this post from my friend Matt Mckee and start by using it to communicate with volunteers.

Monday, October 31, 2011

learning...not imitating

I have always been attracted to strong leadership and strong leaders. When I started serving in the local church years ago I was always looking for leaders who were doing great things and I tried to learn everything I could from them. I went to conferences. I read books. I listened to CD's. In that rush to learn I found myself many times trying to lead like them...speak like them...make decisions like them. Seriously I know I'm not the only person out there that found myself wanting to lead like Bill Hybles, create a student ministry like Doug Fields, speak like Louis Giglio, or inspire like Rick Warren. You know you have your list of leaders to you tried to imitate as a young leader. What I have learned over the years is that God calls us to learn from other leaders not imitate them. Learn all you can but never feel like you have to be anyone but yourself. God called you to serve Him. He wants you to lead. God already has all of the leaders you learn from. He needs you to show up and simply be you as you lead. The student ministry or kids ministry or church you lead needs you.

Learn from other leaders and become the leader God wants you to be. We need you!

Environment Matters

A few years ago I figured something out about how I'm supposed to use my time serving the church. God made it clear that he wants me to create environments, lead teams to accomplish more than they though they can, and communicate. Those three things get most of my attention these days as I work with families, kids, and teens. One thing I believe for every ministry setting is that environment matters. Environment shapes how we engage the content that is trying to be communicated. Environment either helps keep our attention or distracts us. In ministry, environment is a big deal. I serve in a church that rents the facilities we meet in and still we have worked hard to maximize our ministry environments. So I hope you get it...I am passionate about creating next level environments that will help the next generation see the greatness of our God. I am so excited to announce here on the blog that I will be partnering with an amazing organization called Worlds of Wow. These guys partner with churches to create amazing spaces for kids and teens. In the coming months I will be sharing some amazing things these guys are pulling of and helping next generation leaders process how they can best shape the environments and budgets they have to spend on environments. Check out Worlds of Wow and watch this video of some of the work they have done around the country...

Friday, October 28, 2011

The kind of organization that is...Insanely Great

Found this video on a friends blog I follow. This is Steve Jobs introducing the world to the first Apple Macintosh computer in 1984. Just watching the video inspired me and seeing the line "insanely great" come up on the screen just blew me away. What would it look like for our churches to be insanely great? What if we helped people have insanely great environments to worship in? What if we have community groups that were insanely great? What if people described our next generation ministries, communication, or worship team as insanely great? What if the life change people experienced because of our churches was insanely great? We serve an insanely great God...our church, ministries, organizations need to reflect this insanely great God to a broken world. If Steve Jobs can do this with a computer company nothing can stop us from doing the same inside the church. Are you willing to do what it takes to help your organization become insanely great? Check out this video...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

establishing consistency with your small group

About this time every fall we have a few small group leaders say...things are not going the way I thought they would go in my small group. It's no surprise that when October hits and we have met with our group for about eight or nine times every small group leaders out there questions their choice to invest in pre-teens, middle school, or high school students because...IT NEVER GOES LIKE YOU THINK IT WILL. One promise I can make to every small group leader is that there will be challenges and surprises. Small group leaders need help pushing through. If you are out there and you are wondering if your group is going to make it then this is for you...
  • Keep showing up >  really this is 90% of being a great small group leader. Show up prepared to connect, to lead, and to listen at group. Show up at ballgames. Show up and try not to be distracted by other opportunities that would cause you to miss group. Your small group is wondering right now if you are going stick with them and be there. Keep showing up.
  • Push toward fall retreat > shared experiences build connection. If you can make it and go to fall retreat with your student ministry you are going to build some powerful bonds with your small group. Fall retreat is like small group will help take your group to the next level.
  • Keep connecting > keep sending those weekly texts, emails, and Facebook posts. In time it really does mean so much to your small group. Maybe even try to set up a movie night or bowling night. Go do something with your group just to connect.
  • Keep listening, learning, and praying > this is the hard part of being a group leader. You have to lead out in your spiritual disciplines as you invest in the group. Pray, prepare, listen to the Holy Spirit, and be ready to lead strong as God opens the door.
When small group leaders push through the difficult task of establishing consistency good things happen. Life change happens. Mentoring happens. Community happens. It's worth pushing through October to see what God can do through your small group over an entire school year!

Youth Ministry News / the origin of pizza!

Every student pastor in the universe has helped teens embrace the glory of pizza. Every event, every retreat, every leader meeting must be accompanied by glorious pizza. Why? Because it is cheap and someone will bring it to us. This morning my mind was blown when I discovered the possible true origins of pizza. Seriously...this is really funny and your welcome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

developing a theology of leadership / BOOK REVIEW!

The methods of writing and sharing great ideas are changing now more than every. Technology is shaping how we get information and how we share information. Tony Morgan has published a series of ebooks that are free...yes free...and great resources for every leader working in a church or non-profit setting. You can go check out all of the recent books he has released here on his blog. I recently read Developing a Theology of Leadership on my kindle and I wanted to share some of my favorite ideas Tony shared. Go check out this book and the others he has released recently. This is a guy who is serving in the trenches of church life and he is a voice you can trust. Here some of my favorite quotes from Tony's book...
  • Leadership isn’t leadership if it isn’t released to others.
  • Leadership is less about the words or actions of the leader and more about the character of the leader.
  • We are all followers, but not all of us are leaders.
  • Character is proven over a lifetime.
  • Leadership is less about the words or actions of the leader and more about the character of the leader.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Are you empowering teens to serve AT CHURCH?

If you want your church to be a place where teens want to be then you need to begin to find ways to help them serve. Think about all the amazing things teens do every week at middle and high schools across the country and then ask yourself this simple question. How are we challenging teens to do amazing things inside our church? Every church around the country needs high impact volunteers and the sad fact is that many of these same churches are herding teens into classrooms on Sunday mornings instead of giving them significant opportunities to make a difference through service. Six years ago at Grace Community we chose to empower teens on Sunday morning to serve and worship with their family instead of creating a separate Sunday environment for them. Six years later we now believe that we made the right choice and we hope we can help some other churches rethink the idea of letting teens serve now. Here are some reasons I think teens should be empowered to serve...
  • Teens that serve open themselves up to new mentors // teens need other adults speaking into their lives and serving opens up an entire new group of influences. I love that our tech and kids ministry teams gets to invest in the lives of our teens!
  • Teens are some of the most innovative volunteers you will have // seriously we watch teens run cameras, monitor sound boards, greet visitors, create videos, and lead worship every week. Teens are so talented...let them lead and let them create.
  • Teens who serve connect with the church not just your youth ministry // youth ministry that does not help teen connect with the church as a whole it simply self centered and has a short term perspective. Serving allows teens to belong at church!
  • Teens have a deep desire to contribute not just sit or participate // something in this generation wants to take action...give them permission, training, and support and watch what happens.
  • When teens serve they grow // this is true for all of us. Serving leads to spiritual growth.
  • Teens that serve and find community at church look for it when they leave church // teens that leave our church and have served look for a new church when they leave for school. Because the served they had more than just our student ministry.
How can you start opening more doors for students to serve on Sunday mornings? I promise, your church will win when you empower this generation. Remove the red tape, dismiss the doubters, and allow teens to serve now!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yep...we're looking for some amazing volunteers!

Not sure about your church but at Grace Community we are trying to find new volunteers all the time. This week is our event we call ServeNow. We really believe that every teen and adult in our church needs a place to serve in our church and in the community if they are going to grow in their faith. We believe serving is connected to spiritual growth because it opens our hearts to the needs of others. What we try to do with ServeNow is have one place, one Sunday where people can sign up to "test drive" a place of serving. When people sign up they are only signing up to try out serving out in one of our ministry areas by hanging out with a seasoned volunteer for a Sunday and if they feel like that is the right fit they can commit. If they don't like the experience...they can simply walk away. We have found that if  we make serving a priority of the entire church (not just our ministry areas!) we can fill our volunteer needs and help people grow spiritually at the same time. This is how we are helping people make a difference with their time and talents. What are you doing to help people serve in your church?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

FREE STUFF // Some videos we used in our Family Experience

This past week we had our first family experience of the fall for parents and K-5 kids called Cross Street Live. We changed up the format to make it more like a "So Random" type of flow this season. I was really proud of Adam Bayne, Van Riggins, and all our CSL team. I wanted to share the three commercials we did just for a laugh...if you want to use them, go ahead they are great. The last one is one you have seen but it is one of our favorites so I added it here also!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tunnel vision will kill ya (probably just limit ya!)

If you are not a fan of the University of Tennessee then you have no idea who this guy is. His name is Matt Sims and he stepped in for our injured starting quarterback this week against the #1 team in the country. Things really didn't go well for Matt because of one thing. He had tunnel vision. Matt threw a few interceptions at big times in the game because he was locked in on one receiver and did not look for the other players who were open. Tunnel vision in ministry will kill you in the long run because you will miss other opportunities that will help your team advance. I see this play out for leaders all the time. They think their idea is the best way to solve an issue and they fight for their good idea over an idea that might be great. When we allow tunnel vision to control our leadership decisions then we often choose the live in the good at the expense of the great. You know you are a leader with tunnel vision when...
  • You constantly want to make sure you get credit for solving a problem.
  • You limit the input of others when a problem comes up in your organization.
  • You never ask for help when problems arise.
  • You fight harder for your idea than you do for forward motion in your organization.
When you are a leader with tunnel vision you will continually make good choices over great ones, demoralize your team, and lose momentum. How do you get beyond it...humility, teamwork, and becoming a learner. Lose your tunnel vision and start being a big picture leader!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pick the right leaders!

This past weekend I went with my family to Sky Top Orchard in South Carolina and we picked apples. Sky Top was amazing. We got a few baskets and went out into the orchard and started looking for apples. We are late in the season so the closest trees had been picked clean so we had to walk to the trees at the back of the orchard. When we found the trees we figured out that we had to be careful of what apples we picked. There were tons of apples all over the ground that had fallen and were rotting. (My dog liked those!) On every tree there were apples that were not ready to be picked because they had bad spots on them or they were just not ripe. There we also perfect apples that have now turned into a few perfect apple pies. It took more patience to look for the right apples to pick but that really is what determines what the final result will be when we  use them at home.

Picking the right leaders for your ministry setting is no different. Picking the right leaders takes patience, discernment, and faith. Rushing the process means we choose people who simply do not fit. If you want to improve your ministry setting then work harder at picking the right volunteers who will become your leaders! The right people will make ministry happen not a new room, new band, lights, or event. Make sure you are bringing the right people on board.